There are some fundamental truths that Christians generally affirm. Truths like salvation is by God’s grace, there is a God who created everything out of nothing, Jesus Christ is the only Son of God not made but eternally proceeding from the Father and trusting in Jesus is the certain hope for all believers. Most Christians know that God has given them the desire to worship and praise him.
Yet there is a clearly revealed truth that is not often spoken of in evangelical churches in the west. This clearly revealed truth is God’s revealed purpose for his Church: to be holy! Throughout Scripture, God’s purpose of holiness is expressly given. (e.g., Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 2:9-10)
The visible church, the one we see, is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel, and their children. Every local church that teaches Jesus is fully God and fully man, the second person of the Trinity, is part of the universal visible church. The Protestant Reformation described the true church, the visible church as every church that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical church discipline.
God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” But God has also organized the visible church. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” (Ephesians 4:11-12a) Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the worldwide visible church of Jesus Christ.
So, if God organized the church, revealed her marks, and chose to use her to reach the lost, it is reasonable to expect that he also gave her a purpose.
Some people think that the purpose of the church is the ministry that she does. We can look to biblical preaching, teaching sound doctrine, liturgy, programs, etc. But the God-given purpose underlies all the things that the church does. Purpose is concerned with being rather than doing.
The dictionary’s definition of purpose is the reason for existence or being. Applying this definition, what is the reason for the church’s existence? God’s purpose for her was revealed in the Old Testament, Leviticus 11:44. This very same purpose was repeated in the New Testament, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
God’s revealed purpose for his church is holiness. In other words, the church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. The range of meaning includes purity and perfection. God gave the church a purpose; he declared that the church was set apart, dedicated to him. The church is by his definition, different than the world.
In Chuck Colson’s “Against the Night,” he observed that the church had become or was at least striving to become just like the world. D.L. Moody once compared the visible church to a ship in the sea. He said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the church is in the world, but God help the church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the holy Jerusalem that the Apostle John was allowed to see coming down from heaven (see Revelation 21). Jesus Christ died for the church to make her holy (see Ephesians 5:25).
It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. The individual members of the church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy (Ephesians 1:4). God does not leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory. Soli Deo Gloria!
The Weatherford College Board of Trustees held its monthly meeting Thursday in the Allene Strain Community Room.
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.